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My American Century
     

My American Century

by Studs Terkel, Robert Coles (Foreword by)
 

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August 1997

Born in 1912, Studs Terkel has witnessed the 20th century firsthand, commenting the entire way. For more than 30 years, millions of Americans have been moved by Terkel's oral histories, and in My American Century, he maintains the style that has made him an American icon. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has now collected

Overview

August 1997

Born in 1912, Studs Terkel has witnessed the 20th century firsthand, commenting the entire way. For more than 30 years, millions of Americans have been moved by Terkel's oral histories, and in My American Century, he maintains the style that has made him an American icon. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has now collected interviews with "ordinary" Americans to put together a compilation of his best work.

With a forward by noted American historian Robert Coles, in which Coles places Terkel in the context of his times, the book is divided into three segments. Part 1, entitled "The Dream," examines Americans and their pursuit of dreams, some lost and some found. In this section, Terkel gives a broad perspective of American ideologies as he interviews, among others, a Native American teacher, a Horatio Alger Award-winning businessman, an ex-Klansman, and the former director of the Immigration and Naturalization Services. They each give a perspective on the American dream and whether it can be attained. Various everyday Americans -- including a hustler, a gangster, and a farmer -- also comment on the Great Depression; others give their views on the history of World War II.

The second section focuses on a few Americans, but this time they comment on the American city. Terkel includes interviews with a cabbie, a neighborhood crusader, a con man, and a landlady, to name just a few. The interviews then take a different perspective as they focus on working in the city. A waitress, an auto worker, a professional hockey player, and others express their views.

The third and final section of My American Century is entitled "The Divide." Here Terkel examines the prevalent divisions of American society. He uses the views of a farmer, a trader, a teamster, and others to look at the great divide that exists in American culture, and again to explore the American dream. Terkel then focuses on race divisions, interviewing a white mother of six, an African American, and a man of mixed race. The book concludes with the story of America and a few who have lived it, as he interviews a CEO, a writer, an artist, and an environmentalist.

Through these interviews, Studs Terkel paints an intimate portrait of modern America. The wide range of voices provide a panoramic chronicle of the American experience, from the 1920s on. Terkel has delighted readers with his past works, and with this new book he again proves why he is an American icon.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
Oral histories excerpted from the great listener's previous eight books evoke a vanished pre-celeb pop culture.
Doubletake
A summing up of the best of Terkel.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It is 30 years ago that Terkel, then known as a radio interviewer, was persuaded by Andre Schiffrin of Pantheon to commit his remarkably plainspoken and telling interviews to print and weave them around a theme. The first theme was the life of ordinary people in Chicago, and the book, which won Terkel a Pulitzer Prize and lasting bestsellerdom, was Division Street: America. He recently celebrated his 85th birthday. This book, a kind of anthology of the best moments from all his previous works, is good to have. It carries an eloquent introduction by Robert Coles that places Terkel in the company of notable forebears such as James Agee, social commentators whose work helped change the world. It also has a new introduction by the author, who stresses, with his customary pithy vigor, the importance of people being able to change and to go on contributing to life, not despite, but because of, increasing age.

As in his last book, The Coming of Age, it is the lack of a sense of history, of a sense of the immemorial resilience (and frequent contrariness) of the human spirit, that most troubles Terkel about our current times; and as always his work, while utterly realistic, is an antidote to despair. This collection, arranged chronologically by the periods the books covered, not by the dates of their original publication, is the best possible introduction to his splendid body of work.

Library Journal
This book is a collection of Terkel's encounters over his long career as the nation's premier oral historian. Described by Terkel as a 'jazz work,' it is made up of material taken from the author's major books: Hard Times,Working, The Good War, Chicago, and The Great Divide. Turkel's greatest accomplishment in all his books is his ability to concentrate on the individuals telling their story, a technique that leads to a deeper understanding of history as seen through the eyes of ordinary people.The packaging of Terkel's work in one volume makes for a convenient and accessible title that recognizes the human side of history. -- Robert J. Favini, Bentley College Library, Waltham, Massachusetts

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565844698
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
09/28/1998
Pages:
544
Product dimensions:
5.69(w) x 8.97(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 16, 1912
Date of Death:
October 31, 2008
Place of Birth:
New York, NY
Place of Death:
Chicago, IL
Education:
J.D., University of Chicago, 1934

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